Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 5, 2001
Hold on to hope in dark times
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
We know it here as the Prayer of The Christophers; you might think of it as the Prayer of St. Francis. It's the one that begins, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon. . . . ."
A prayer of breathtaking beauty and simplicity under any circumstance, it seems especially appropriate in this strange and unsettled time that has followed Sept. 11. Not only is there comfort in its promise; its measured cadence reminds us of the things that really matter, even in the darkest days of our lives.
Consider, for example, the remaining four lines of the first stanza that was started above: "Where there is doubt, (let me sow) faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light, and where there is sadness, joy"
Darkness and fear have surely coloured these autumn weeks, and so has despair. The light of faith will always overcome fear, and as the prayer gently recalls for us, the answer to despair is hope.
As people of the Judeo-Christian tradition, we come by our hope quite naturally. It is ingrained throughout Scripture, either explicitly (as in Psalm 119, verse 49: "Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope") or by inference.
All of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, insist that divine guidance never fails, and that once we learn to follow God's way we can face life with confidence, courage and the sure hope of God's reward.
St. Paul wrote often of the virtue of hope, and even if he assigned a greater value to that of love (1 Corinthians 13:13), he continually reminded his far-flung faithful of the role of hope in their lives - and ours.
"Hope does not disappoint us," he wrote, "because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5). And again, "Continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the Gospel" (Colossians 1:23).
Those last lines, particularly, might have been written for these latter days of the year 2001. No question about it; there are times when many are gripped by despair - and heaven knows there is much to be desperate about.
But as St. Paul himself advises, let's not allow ourselves to be shaken from our hope. It is through hope, after all, that we have the confident expectation that if we hold on and trust in God, we will get through the darkest times.
Many years ago Maryknoll Father James Keller, the founder of The Christophers, came up with a little essay on hope that's as inspiring today as the day it was written.
"Hope looks for the good in people instead of harping on the worst," it begins. "Hope opens doors where despair closes them. Hope discovers what can be done instead of grumbling about what cannot. . . . Hope is a good loser because it has the divine assurance of final victory."
Keller's thoughts on hope are concise enough to fit on one of our Christopher bookmarks (the reverse side contains similar reflections on "holiness" by another former Christopher director, Father John Catoir.
Write to me if you'd like one sent to you free. I'll be sure that it's on the way to you as soon as possible. In the meantime, hold on to hope. It's a God-given gift just made for our troubled times.
(For a free copy of the Christopher Hope and Holiness bookmark, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: email@example.com.)
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